Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Haunted Houses (Haunted Brains) ...

“I am like a small creature swallowed whole by a monster, she thought, and the monster feels my tiny little movements inside.” ― Shirley JacksonThe Haunting of Hill House
This week, in my Imaginative Literature and Critical Writing class, my students are writing papers comparing Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper." Both of these twisted tales take the houses that lie at their centers and turn them into living, breathing organisms. In Hill House, the manse seems to leer at the protagonist, its cornices eyebrows, its windows eyes, its veranda a belt, its front door a mouth. In "The Yellow Wallpaper," there is something lurking behind the paper on the walls, creeping, shaking the pattern, staring.

In Jackson's novel, the main character, a young woman named Eleanor, aptly muses, "Am I walking toward something I should be running away from?" This quote seems to sum up the appeal of such places for us oddballs who find the frightening space so appealing. We walk toward that which we should run away from. The question is why? What is the appeal of the haunted house? Why do we want to walk into its yawning jaws and explore its innards? What do we hope to find in these abandoned spaces, where we might literally lose our heads (or at the very least, our minds)?

On that note, a few of my favorite spooky-looking houses for you to explore. Leave a trail of silver pennies so that you can find your way out. ~Alice

A Victorian manor, near Bois de Boulogne, Paris, France
photo © Maurice
The Winchester House , San Jose, CA http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/
Bowman's Castle, Brownsville, PA
The Lemp Mansion, St. Louis, MO

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